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Days Before DeVos Faces Senate, Opponents Launch Last-Minute Efforts Against Confirmation

President-elect Donald Trump's nomination for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is slated to face the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee during a hearing scheduled for Jan. 11.

Just days before the hearing, opponents of DeVos's nomination are making last-minute attempts to publicize their concerns that DeVos, a billionaire who has been an education advocate for decades but has never worked in a school, will do irreparable damage to the U.S. public education system.

Elizabeth Warren: 'No precedent for an Education Department Secretary nominee with your lack of experience'

Ahead of the January 11 hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren penned a 16-page letter to DeVos in order to outline her concerns for fear that the hearing will not allow for enough time to address them all.

Warren expresses concerns about what she calls DeVos's "nonexistent record on higher education" and outlines a fear that DeVos will be focused on "gambling with our child's education in support of [her] radical political ideology."

By saying "radical political ideology," Warren is referring to DeVos’s support of and long-time advocacy for school choice and school vouchers.

Overall, Warren explains she's ultimately fearful that DeVos's unwavering support for school choice will defund and privatize K-12 education to the disadvantage of America's already-disadvantaged students. Warren cites a lack of evidence that school choice works as one of the main reasons fueling her fear that it become national policy.

"... I am extremely concerned about your staunch support for voucher schemes that siphon away much-needed public education funds with no strings attached, sidestepping standards and protections from discrimination. The next Secretary of Education must rely on evidence, not ideological views, to make K-12 policy decisions," Warren writes.

You can read Warren's letter, including her direct questions for DeVos, in full here.

John B. King, Jr.: 'Vouchers are not a scalable solution to the challenges we face in American education'

While current Education Secretary under the Obama administration John B. King, Jr. has not explicitly expressed opposition to DeVos's nomination, he recently did an exit interview with NPR during which he discussed his concerns that DeVos's policy goals will harm America's students.

When directly asked how he feels about Trump and DeVos's support for both school choice and voucher programs, King said:

"In many places, I think, the conversation about vouchers is driven by a legitimate concern about how we ensure equality of opportunity. I think the way we do that is through strong public schools. District schools, traditional schools, and charter schools. And part of how we ensure schools are good is we have meaningful systems of accountability that focus people on outcomes for kids."

King went on to directly criticize Michigan, DeVos's home-state and ground zero for her advocacy work:

"Unfortunately ... states like Michigan have weak systems of accountability, and that's a problem. And the result is a proliferation of low-performing schools."

When asked if there was any voucher program he could support, he reiterated his belief that such programs divert needed attention from public education:

"No. Honestly, I don't think vouchers get at the real challenges that we have.... K-12 schools that are providing a rich, well-rounded education ... to me, is the answer."

You can read a transcript of King's exit interview with NPR in full here.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia: 'Betsy DeVos is an actual danger to students'

National Education Association (NEA)’s President Lily Eskelsen Garcia has launched a last-minute effort to encourage teachers "to call and email their senators, urging a vote against DeVos’s confirmation," said The Washington Post.

"Betsy DeVos is not qualified, and even more than unqualified, Betsy DeVos is an actual danger to students—especially our most vulnerable students.... She has made a career trying to destroy neighborhood public schools, the very cornerstone of what's made our nation so strong," Eskelsen Garcia said according to the Post.

Randi Weingarten: 'Donald Trump dismissed the will of the people in choosing' DeVos

American Federation of Teachers' President Randi Weingarten delivered a speech today addressing the future of public education and, in turn, DeVos's nomination.

In the beginning of the speech, Weingarten expressed optimism that the Every Student Succeeds Act represents a fundamental, bipartisan reform of public education policy. She also expressed concerns that DeVos's nomination will undo this promising step in the right direction.

"Donald Trump dismissed the will of the people in choosing instead the most anti-public education nominee in the history of the Department," she said.

"Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as Secretary of Education.... If DeVos is confirmed ... if she re-ignites the education wars, it will demonstrate that her ultimate goal is to undermine public schools, the schools that 90 percent of American children attend. It should come as no surprise that we are steadfast at opposing her nomination."

Weingarten says in order "to work together to build the system of great neighborhood public schools," individuals must consider these four pillars:

  • promoting children's well-being
  • supporting powerful learning
  • building teacher capacity
  • fostering cultures of collaboration

DeVos's focus on school choice, Weingarten insinuates, ignores this formula for building strong public schools and instead poses a threat to America's students.


Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor 

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